Back to School: Teen Style
In honor of my oldest child going off tomorrow to his senior high school year, this month's article is about teen pages. In the scrapbooking industry, and in family photography, the teen years often get skimmed over. Everyone loves a photo of a baby with a cute smile. But you rarely see a scowling teen with an eyebrow piercing in the national scrapbook magazines. Or even a wonderful generous teen that also happens to have green dyed hair? We just don't see that kind of thing very often on the covers of our scrapbook magazines do we? Our lives and our families are full of all types and ages of people. Let's work a little harder at making sure they are ALL represented. Don't let a teen photo void happen in your family. Use some of these tips to get the photos you need. I'll also go over several teen events and back to school activities that we should document before our babies go off into the big wide world and give you some resources for great page accents.
Typically, teens don't like fuss and photos. They just want us to 'leave them alone.' Starting around age 13 they say things like, "Get out of here Mom!" and "Take that camera away!" "Hurry up and take the shot!" Why? Photos and cameras often signify sentimentality to a teen. And they are trying to show their independence from such sappy sentiments. You might be lucky if your teen gives you more than a dirty look or a scowl for any of their casual teen photos for several years. My son was like this. I have some whopper-doozie killer scowl looks from him on film. We look back now and laugh. But even so, he is still not THAT fond of being in my photos even yet at 18.
If your teen is the same way, here are some tips for documenting those teen years and getting some good shots regardless of the teen and his lack of participation. They don't even want to be in the same room with a parent who has a camera; don't be afraid to put some of these tips to use immediately if you have a teen going back to school! . Just because they won't pose for you doesn't mean all is lost Being a teen doesn't mean their photo albums should have a 5-year gap before they come to their senses. They may not be your sweet baby faced toddlers anymore, in fact they might be downright crabby half the time. But you should still be documenting their ups and downs in life.
First of all, sit down and have a talk with your child. Explain patiently how even though they are a teen, and you don't want to invade their privacy, you still want to have photos of the highlights of their teen years. Rudeness to you should not be tolerated just because you have a camera in your hand. Ask them to choose another place and time to flex their independence muscles. After that, here are some other tips I have put into practice which have helped me collect good teen photo shots..
1. I'll trade you! Have other parents habitually take photos for you of your child. It is a kind of sneak attack--but it works. Tell everyone you know that you are a scrapbooker and that you want teen photos of your child. Tell the band director, the cheer coach, the lady next to you at the ball game who has a great zoom camera, and the friend who always helps in home economics class that you need photos--any photos--with your child in them. My friends and I trade kid photos all the time now. My kids are MUCH more patient with anyone besides me taking their photo. They will even smile sweetly! Their kids do the same for me. So we just trade! It's weird, but it works!
2. Is there a historian? If your child is in groups and activities for school, find out who the 'historian' for the group is. Ask for duplicates. On band and out of town traveling trips, there is usually one chaperone or adult who takes tons of photos. Sometimes these photos even go up immediately on a website meant to update the parents about the trip as it happens. Ask for digital copies or real photos from the person taking the shots as group historian. Once they agree to help you out, follow up a month later and politely remind them you still would love to have those photos.
3. The yearbook staff can help. School yearbooks usually develop candid and activity group photo extras for a small fee. Do NOT be shy. Around mid year, ask if the index for the yearbook is done and ask if your child is in any candids or group shots. If you just can't ask in person, call or write to ask for copies. Always offer to pay for duplicates. They may say no, but they may also say yes! It's worth a try. Be sure to browse through the yearbook when it comes out at the end of the school year. Your child may be in it more than you think in some fun activities you didn't know about!! My own high school yearbook has a great photo of the HUGE toilet paper job my friends and I did one night to the school itself. Shhhh...I still don't think my mom or the past principal know I had anything to do with it! I plan to scan that yearbook photo and add it to my personal album with journaling!
4. Check the papers. Local newspapers often photograph regional and state tournaments for activities like sports, cheering, fundraisers, chess club, pageants, Knowledge Masters, DECA, speech team and other charitable, social and academic competitions. Check with the newspaper photo dept. to see if they also develop extras for a small fee. In our town it is about $4 for a 5x7 photo. Even if your own child is not in the photo, it might be a good thing to add to your albums if the whole team won a trophy, placed highly, or raised a lot of money for charity. Clip out newspaper notices of how the teams did and use archival spray to de-acidify them so they can also be added to your albums.
5. Scan the locker or backpack. When the term is done, have your child bring you the papers they no longer need in the school locker or backpacks. Most of it will be trash of course. But some jewels may be in there too. I did this in 2001 and found a wonderful essay my son wrote about what being an American means to him. I noticed the date was shortly after 9-11. It must have been an honors American Studies essay. I never even knew he had been assigned the topic. Being a teen, and being done with that class, he wasn't going to keep it. But looking to the future for him, and being a mom, I saved it. Needless to say, I added it to his album. There are no photos for that page. But it doesn't need them. Don't save every test. Keep a few things that reflect your child's personality or interest that year. No photos are necessary.
6. The power of the zoom. If you can afford it, get a great zoom camera. People do it for trips to Safari Land or the Grand Canyon. I think they should do it for the teen years! You can get some fabulous shots if you are more than 10 yards away and they don't see you aiming at them. Just like the other wild things in life, teens show their stripes better when they don't realize you are photographing them! :) I got some great shots of my son and his band friends laughing at a football game this way. Zoom Zoom! He would have killed me at the time if I had 'interrupted' them for a closer photo. These are now some of his favorite photos. The great zoom made it possible.
7. Have your teen tell you what they think. They've got opinions and plenty of 'em! Of course they won't usually sit down and journal half a page for you. But you can start a conversation and keep note of the replies. The car is a great place for this. On a long trip, ask them what they think of Iraq, the new principal, skateboarding, or the latest movie. Let their topic of conversation take them wherever it wants to go. Keep a mental note. Write it all down later. (Like at the next rest stop!) If you can get them to talk about their disappointments this year or their goals and where they want to be in 20 years, by all means add that too! Life is full of ups and downs. Document them.
8. Save The Homework Planner or Your family calendar. Our high school gives each student a assignment planner calendar to use. Some use them and some don't. But if yours does, keep it from year to year. Saving a copy of the activities and events for each year of their high school careers is a smart move. Even if you didn't want it for their albums, you will need it senior year to document all the academic and extra curricular items they have been involved in. The SAT and ACT testing organizations both ask for reckonings of all the student's extracurricular, social, charitable, and academic pursuits for the previous 4 years. Having a calendar for each year at hand makes filling out those forms easy. It also makes journaling and high school album planning a cinch. You won't inadvertently forget to make a scrapbook page for each of their special activities if you have a complete month-by-month list of them! Incorporate any newsworthy world current events into the calendar if you like.
9. Memorabilia tells a story too. Ticket stubs, dinner receipts, driver permits, prom corsage petals, garter belts, awards, medals, hair dye labels, (just kidding) computer repair business cards, pay stubs, tour bus tickets, sport programs, are all a real tangible memento of each event. Your child's room is probably cluttered full of them. You may have to clean the room to find them! But they are likely there. These are snippets of the past that your child is sentimental about but has not gotten around to organizing. Keep them in accordion file folders by month. This makes finding them easier later when making a page. Even if you don't have photos of an event--but you have memorabilia--you can do a wonderful page. Yearly teen timelines, pocket pages, memorabilia envelopes, collage pages, and lists or heavy journaling all lend themselves well to memorabilia pages. Don't forget to spray the items with archival spray so they last a little longer.
10. What to document? Here are a few things to document during the teen years.
Learning to drive
First job or pay stub
Scrapes, mishaps, accidents and injuries
Schools they've gone to
Teachers they have had
Braces (before and after?)
Hair styles and jewelry preferences, tattoos
Sports, Band and Cheering
Getting ready for SAT, ACT or other testing and results
College applications or acceptances
Stockpiling stuff for college or apartments
Their parents and family who love them and wish them well.
11. Use School Colors. Want to get a high school year's album done quickly? Use alternating pages of your child's school colors for the background paper. My son's school colors are red and black. I created his high school album in record time using red and black cardstock as the background paper. Once backgrounds were decided, it saved me time. I didn't have to fret over how to choose coordinated papers for a variety of events and themes. Shopping for the two solid colors of cardstock was a breeze. I then tore, color blocked, made pocket pages, added borders, paper pieced, and added other accents to those red and black backgrounds. The album still has a variety of visual treatments and used accents relating to his activities on each page. But by using his school colors, it saved me hours of time. The unifying color scheme was cohesive, attractive and it added to the theme of his high school years and his school spirit. Since he is a senior this year, I am not completely done with it yet. But so far everyone who has seen it loves it.
12. Poetry for Teen Albums. Journaling is often difficult and too private for teens to do about themselves. And it can also be challenging for adults to journal about events for their teens. What is the solution? Poetry! Poetry and quotes can deliver just the right mood and message for us. Here are a few good poems and sites I have found on the Internet. Topics from grade school to graduation to parenting can all be used to journal how we feel.
Scrapbook Title page
Written by Thena Smith, 2001
This is not just another album
Not just another book
This is opening up my heart
And giving you a look.
In this album there are pages
To remind me who I am
And of those I love so much
With memories in printed form
That I reach out and touch.
There are pages about the baby me
And pages of the teen
Pages of my older years
And all years in between.
As you open up the album
And watch my story unfold
I pray that there are years of memories
Not yet recorded and not yet told.
Five Ages of Change
by Ashlee Fincher
When that beautiful baby came into this world,
and looked into his mommy's eyes, without a care on her mind
she felt the love and joy they can only be experienced once in a lifetime.
When that beautiful baby turns into a terrible two,
and starts doing things that are brand new,
the mother then feels the frustration that's handed to her by all the things little kids do.
Then when that terrible two grows out of the "I want" stage,
and into the "Leave me alone I don't need you",
the mommy then turns into the mom who doesn't know anything
about the life they live in, and all the problems they're going thru.
Then the independent pre-teen
turns into the wild and crazy teenager the mother once knew,
she then begins to let go a little, and lets her experience things she prays she'll never do.
Then comes the moment all mothers dread.
The time where the adult graduates and the most tears are shed.
The mother then knows she has to let go of that beautiful baby she watched grow.
As she sits back, reminiscing time, five ages change right before her very eyes.
The Meanest Parents
By unknown, from internet emails
I had the meanest parents in the world. While other kids ate candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs and toast. While others had coke and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich or a hot lunch. As you can guess, my dinner was different from other kids, too.
My mother insisted on knowing where I was at all times. She had to know who my friends were and what we were doing. She insisted that if I told her I would be gone an hour, I would be gone an hour or less.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but they actually had the nerve to make us kids work. We had to wash dishes, make beds and learn how to cook. I believe they stayed awake at night, thinking up things to make me do!
By the time I became a teenager they had even grown meaner. They embarrassed me by making my dates come to the front door to pick me up. And while my friends were dating at the mature ages of twelve and thirteen, my old-fashioned mother refused to let me date until I was sixteen.
In spite of the harsh way I was raised, I've never been arrested. And all my brothers and sisters turned out okay, too. I guess we owe it all to our mean parents. They insisted that we grow up into God-fearing, honest, responsible adults. Church is still important to them today & had it been different, I don't want to think of where I would have been. I'm grateful to God that He....Gave Me The Meanest Parents in the World!!
13. Keep at it! Persistence and perseverance pays off in nice teen albums later. It also doesn't hurt to have a tough skin as a parent. Whatever you do, don't give up taking photos of those teens! They might squirm and grouse and scowl. Don't let teens intimidate or avoid you and the camera for long! The kids really will appreciate these photos, memories and albums in the years to come. :) Rest assured of that as you carefully stalk them with the zoom lens or go through their trash for memorabilia... Good luck and best wishes to your teens wherever life leads them in the future.